Review: Necropath by Eric Brown
Necropath is science fiction noir. It’s the first book in a trilogy and it’s told in the 3rd person with viewpoint characters occasionally shifting at chapter breaks. Due to the multiple mysteries woven into the text, pretty much any of what follows could be construed as a spoiler to one degree or another.
Judging a book by its cover
Jon Sullivan did a great job on the cover of Necropath, and I recognized the praying mantis themed void ship early in the text. However, the station itself bears little resemblence to the dull chunk of metal rising from the ocean between India and Burma as described in the book.
This would be a minor quibble, except that it’s the mix of Indian and Thai inhabitants, and the associated cultures and religions, that give this book its soul. A mystery involving a religious cult fits perfectly into the established tapestry of religious diversity. Differing views of life after death provide a foundation for exploring the particular talents of a necropath
Digging a bit deeper
This mix of sci-fi, noir, and religion has been examined in some pretty strong books. Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan and Spin State by Chris Moriarty come to mind. Altered Carbon was marked by levels of cinematic violence that bring to mind Quentin Tarantio films, where as the movie that most comes to mind in relation to Necropath is Garden State.
I bring up Garden State (unquestionably neither Sci-Fi nor noir) because Necropath is largely about the struggle of an antisocial, jaded, self medicating telepath, Vaughn, as he tries to develop relationships. Vaughn confronted with a cult that makes him question the oblivion he’s read in countless homocide victims. I feel Brown did a great job exploring the unique emotional and spiritual needs of a telepath. The gradients of mental impression regulated both by technology and drugs guided and constrained the narrative.
The mystery of the cult serves to set up the threat of the Vaith, which I assume we’ll encounter more of in Xenopath. It also proved a venue for much of Vaughn’s personal growth. The assassin plot, actually seems a bit tacked on, but it serves as a fairly effective counter point to how living as a telepath can effect a person. Vaughn at the opening of Necropath is almost painful to read, but the Vaughn at the close of the book is someone I look forward to spending more time with.